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One of the main objectives of GFAR’s activities around “opening access to knowledge” has been supporting the ability of organizations to work together to improve the sharing, managing and using of agricultural data. This has been a key element of the CIARD movement of which GFAR is a co-founder.
One of the main activities in support of this objective was GFAR’s participation in a European Commission funded “e-infrastructure” project called agINFRA . This project, which finished in February 2015, was given an extremely positive evaluation by the EC. The agINFRA project, which aimed to build a shared hardware and network infrastructure with accompanying software services, scored an “Excellent” rating meaning that the project had fully achieved its objectives and technical goals and had, in fact, exceeded expectations.
GFAR, along with all the partners in the Consortium, was pleased with the recognition the project received. Of particular note was the acknowledgment of the CIARD RING, the CIARD global directory of datasets for agriculture, managed by GFAR, as one of the products chosen by the EC as an innovation. Furthermore, the project was included in the G-8 European Commission Action Plan as part of the EC's commitment to deliver open access to publicly funded agriculturally relevant data for users in Africa and around the world.
Another one of the aspects of the project that the EC looked found favorable was the focus on sustainability. The agINFRA Consortium has agreed that all the products delivered or enhanced during the project will be maintained by the responsible partners and will remain accessible both through the RING (in a special section on agINFRA) and through a new agINFRA website. Through this website, the partners will continue to collaborate and ensure access to the developed / enhanced products, in particular the CIARD RING, the agINFRA API and the agINFRA vocabularies. This will allow other data managers and developers to contribute new assets (datasets, web services, vocabularies) and act as a reference point for institutions seeking domain-specific support on implementation of EC’s (and other donors) Open Access requirements, data management plans, etc. The website also acts as a bridge between global thematic services like AGRIS and the RING and the EC directory of research outputs (OpenAIRE).
In light of the EC reviewers recommendation for the project to carry on the policy support and the networking and with the strong partnership that has evolved during the course of the project, the partners have committed to continue working together. Some of the partners have built at least some of the activities into their core business. With more investment the full potential of this excellent project could be realized and so the partners are also committed to finding additional funding.